Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ahh...the Food (and the Wine), pt. 7

We left the Italian Riviera for the last leg of our journey and headed for Venice.
It was our longest drive of the trip, but we managed to make a couple of stops in some major food capitols along the way - Parma and Modena.
We were in Modena (home of balsamic vinegar and tortellini) at lunch time. It was a cute little town, but we were in a hurry so we grabbed some lunch at this little place right near the piazza.

I ordered fresh tortellini "the Modena way". It was one of the best meals of the trip.
We left Modena and continued to Venice. It was a very stressful last drive as our GPS decided to go wacko just a few miles away from our exit off the highway. Driving in Italy isn't easy, even with GPS, so without it we were lost. We got off and on a couple different exits and proceeded to get more and more lost until the GPS decided to work again. We made it to the car drop off point. There are no cars in Venice. If you drive there, you have to park the car on the mainland and then walk or take a waterbus or taxi onto the islands. We lugged our bags to a water taxi and headed for the hotel. Once we checked in we had a few hours to wander before dark.

Venice is one of my most favorite cities in the world (that I've been to). It is so unique and beautiful. Unfortunately we were there over Easter and most Europeans have that week off. I think they were ALL in Venice. It was terribly crowded, more crowded than the last time I was there during the summer. We fought the crowds a bit at the more touristy places and then explored some other areas off the beaten path.

The Gondolas are everywhere. I think they add to the ambiance of Venice.

We ordered a bottle of Lambrusco (sparkling red wine) at dinner our first night,

And ordered pasta arrabiata

The next morning we went to the Peggy Gugenheim museum. After she died her home was turned into the museum. She had an amazing collection of modern art including this very interesting piece. Plus, her home sits right on the Grand Canal. Unfortunately the back patio was being remodeled so we weren't able to go on it this time.

Another beautiful canal.

The Rialto Bridge

We took a sightseeing break and stopped at Harry's Bar where the peach Bellini was invented. It was good, but it was 15E a glass, about $40 for two.

A view of the Grand Canal

That night it was lasagna for dinner.
The next day we took a waterbus to the lagoon and visited the islands of Burano and Murano.

Burano is my favorite place on Earth. It is a tiny little village with these amazing, colorful houses. It is such a bright, cheery, and relaxing place. Someday I want to spend a few days here just resting, relaxing, and painting. It's so peaceful.

More colorful homes.
Pizza for lunch

We then waterbused to Murano, where Murano glass is made. I had been to a glass factory here on my last trip, but had not seen the town itself. It was also very cute.

Heading back to Venice.

I love the colorful poles.

We spent our last night at Fondementa delle Zattere which is an area of Venice away from the tourists. It is quiet area, lined with terraces that sit over the water. The view is beautiful. Here we enjoyed some refreshing beverages.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

An Inspiration

I recently read a newspaper article about Khadijah Williams, the homeless girl who got into Harvard. This girl has been to 12 schools in 12 years because she, her mother and little sister have moved from shelter to shelter or street to street for most of her life. She graduated last week, 4th in her class, with honors. Her story is quite a story and it got me thinking about my own students.

My school is primarily a low income, English as a second language school. A lot of our kids have issues that they deal with; issues that are way more pressing than school. Most are economically disadvantaged, many live in apartments with several other families, some have parents who have committed suicide and others have parents in jail. Our transiency rate is very high. In fact, this year I had 5 out of 16 kids who came mid-year or later and for a few of them, we were their 3rd school this year. We are always trying to find ways to motivate and make our kids do well in school so they have more opportunities. But for some of them, nothing we do inspires them. They still come to school everyday; we are a place of consistency and safety to a lot of them, but they don't live up their potential. Khadijah Williams did. She was motivated to make her situation better. She is a role model.

Even though my summer just started, the new school year is right around the corner. Every summer is a time to regroup and rest, but it is also a time to think of ways to make more of an impact than I did the year before. I want all my kids to be like Khadijah Williams. I don't mean I want them all to go to Harvard, but I want them all to think of their education as more than
something we make them do. Each year that is my goal. Each year I always feel like I've failed with some of them.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Pushing Daisies

Last year 'Pushing Daisies', a quirky little show, aired on television. It hasn't been on for awhile, but its new season started up again a week or so ago. I am so happy that it's back on.

The premise of the show is that Ned, the cute guy in the middle, found out that he had a very special power when he was a young boy. He is able to bring dead people back to life with his touch. However, once he brings them back to life there are two events that happen - First, if he touches them a second time they will die again, second, if he keeps them alive for more than a minute or two, someone else will die. I won't go into detail as to how he found that out since that's not the point of my post, but I will say that as an adult his childhood dog is still alive, but he has to pet it with a wooden hand.

Ned's main career is a pie maker. He owns a pie shop called the "Pie Hole". However he hooked up with a private investigator to solve murders. When someone dies suspiciously, they go to the morgue and the corpse tells them how they died when Ned touches him or her. This must be done in a minute or two before Ned has to touch them a second time before someone else dies. It's morbid I know, but clever. During the first episode Ned's childhood sweetheart dies suspiciously on a cruise ship. Ned and the PI go to the morgue and when Ned realizes it's Charlotte (nicknamed Chuck) he can't touch her a second time to make her die again. Fast forward through the next season, as Ned and Chuck have helped the PI solve crimes and been involved in numerous shenanigans, they have fallen in love.

That is wonderful, but there's only one problem, they can't touch each other - nothing, not even hold hands. Which got me thinking. Of course this is just television, but what a dilemma, don't you think? They have a great emotional love, but no physical love. Certainly there are people out there that have great physical love, but limited emotional love. A combination of both is ideal, but watching this show makes me ponder this dilemma. My head says, of course if I had to choose between just emotional love with my true love, I'd take it. But then my heart says how miserable that would be if he were my true love. It would be a very difficult choice. What do you think? If you had to make that choice, what would you choose?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ahh, the Food (and the Wine) Part 6

The Italian Riviera was so amazing that I needed two posts to fit it all in. On our third day, we took the train a bit south to explore the Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre is a trail of 5 villages that over look the water. Next to Portofino, Cinque Terre is most often what you see in pictures of Italy on the water.

We took the train to the village the farthest south and then worked our way north.We got off the train in Riomaggiore, the southern-most village.

The trail from Riomaggiore to the next village is called the Via dell' Amore. It is the easiest of the trails.

Here's the trail with its beautiful views.

Before arriving at the next village, you pass the lovers statue. Here you can add a lock to the railing to symbolize your love.

The next village is Manarola....more beautiful views.

We loved the counters at the little markets. All the meats and cheeses and olives were so delicious!

We stopped for pizza and beer while in Manarola. As I have mentioned, this region is where pesto was "invented". This is a pesto pizza. It doesn't look terribly appetizing, but it was goooood.
So good, we ate all but one piece.
We then took the 2nd part of the trail to the third village. Holy Smokes, that kicked our butt. Please notice that we started way down at the bottom of that arrow. Yah, that's right. We arrived at Corniglia and then had to take a bus to the village as it sits at the top of an even higher mountain. It is a very small town and none of my pictures came out.

After that we took the train to the last two villages.

Vernazza was our 4th village. It was my favorite; Beautiful colors and a cute little harbor.

Our last stop was Monterosso. It was very different than the other ones. Much more resorty. After a very busy day, we were pooped. We took the train back to Zoagli and rested up for awhile. The Duke was wandering around that evening and he showed me some of his other houses on his property. What an amazing place!

Before we turned in for the night we headed to dinner at this cute little bar in town. Our last chance for pesto and I didn't waste that opportunity.
Pesto Gnocchi!!!

Spaghetti and Fresh Tomato Sauce!!!

Caprese Salad!!!! Nom, nom, nom.
Next stop...Venice!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ahh the Food (and the Wine) Pt. 5

After dropping Marcie at the train station, we left Pisa and headed Northwest to Liguria, otherwise known as the Italian Riviera. Wow! What a place. This was an area of Italy I had not been to before so it was all new and all spectacular.After getting lost, really lost, we finally arrived at our accommodations for a few days. This place was not a hotel or even a villa, it was a castle, that's right a castle. We stayed for 3 nights in Zoagli, a small seaside town that sits just south of Portofino and Genoa. Our castle is owned by the Duke of Zoagli. We met him. We even had breakfast with him.

Here is our first view of the castle. It's nice, but just wait...

Here it is standing across the water from it. Sitting right out onto the water, the land across the way is Portofino. The black dot on the top floor, facing the water was our room.
Here is the entrance to our castle.
Here's the entrance to our room.
Here is the window in our room that opens right out to the ocean. We had two more; one on the right and one on the left.

Here's the view to the left.
Here's the view to the right.

This is the little town of Zoagli. The castle has it's own private gate and walkway that took us behind those buildings right into the center of town.

After a good night's sleep, we wandered around the Duke's property, had lunch, and then headed to Portofino. This is where the rich get richer.

Oh, pardon me, let me move my yacht. I do hate when it blocks such a beautiful view.

Portofino!!! It was so pretty.

We actually ate dinner here the first night and came back the second night because the food and wine were so good.

Good Eating!
Liguria is the birthplace of pesto. My first (and second) dinner in the Italian Riviera was short pasta with pesto. Oh. My. God. It was so good!

We finished it off with a sip, or two, of limoncello. Mmmmm! Mmmmmm!

Dogs in restaurants is not an uncommon occurrence in Italy. I like dogs, so it didn't bother me. During our second meal at this restaurant a small dachshund ran around visiting. As I tried to get a picture his owner, my new husband, picked him up to hold the dog still so I could take his picture.
I'd like you to meet Alex, I don't remember the dog's name. All I remember is that the stupid dog wouldn't hold still so my picture of it and beautiful Alex came out all blurry.
More to come on the Italian Riviera. It is too beautiful for only one post!